I have used numerous guitars over the years. These include SG's and a 60's Fender Stratocaster up until about '78. During '78-'79. I used a black Gibson Les Paul Custom and also started using a modified CBS-era Fender Stratocaster with Dimarzio Super-Distortion (humbucking) pickups. For the Screaming for Vengeance tour I added a chrome pickguard. For that tour I also played a Gibson SG. The SG also had a chrome pickguard and stock PAF humbuckers. Around '84 I switched to a custom made Hamer Phantom, plus my own distinctive designed Hamer GT which you will see featured on the Hamer Guitar page.
Updated Article - Talking To Pete Wadeson
I'm definitely not a collector of guitars as such. A guitar for me is a tool it does a job, and that's it. When I'm working, I just take out a selection of instruments that I think I'm going to use. And when I refer to a guitar as "valuable", I mean valuable in a personal way... so I'll show you some of my guitars that are interesting for various reasons or that mean a lot to me.
I’ll begin with an instrument that I say 'has saved my life'. Indeed, if there's one guitar among this lot that makes me sentimental and misty-eyed, it's my cream-coloured faded 1961 Fender Stratocaster. When I was in the Flying Hat Band before joining Priest, my only guitar was an early Salmon pink strat. Sadly, it got nicked after a gig in Newcastle. It was the only point in my musical career where I seriously thought of giving up... I had no money to buy another, but luckily I was offered this Stratocaster for thirty pounds (even though cheap at the time it was still a lot of money going back but I managed to raise the cash somehow). A lot of parts of early Priest songs were written and some recorded on that guitar. It's beautiful - and completely original. It's still one of my favourites.
As for the SG's I also played in the early days there's still one or two in my collection. There’s an original colour single coil pickup SG and some are customized with my trademark mirror scratch-plates, made from highly polished stainless steel. This is one of my original '63 SGs, I've had a lot of SG's, and usually I've ended up having them sprayed black. I started to use mirror scratch-plates on that Strat with the heavily modified black maple neck custom model. It's a nice visual effect to use on stage, when the lights catch it. One SG features its original ivory tuning pegs and a Gibson humbucker at the neck, but has accumulated an adjustable-saddle bridge and an EMG 81 pickup in the bridge position. This one has served its time live, but I frequently used it for recording such as in the solo of "Grinder" or "Delivering the Goods" etc. I don't know what it is, but I seem to have broken or lost a lot of SGs.
My ’78 maple necked, black and mirror-plated Strat - customized with a Kahler Pro flat-mount tremolo system and two cream-bobbined Dimarzio humbuckers is a weighty beast indeed. I used to use it a lot, and I suppose it's one of the first guitars people associated me with. It's a good working tool. Because of the pickups, it sounds something like a cross between a Gibson and a Strat and it's very powerful. I recorded the solo in Metal Gods with it.
I’ve got a silver Roland G-707 guitar synth with an added Kahler. It makes some fantastic sounds, but playing it live was a nightmare. You had to wind in some direct guitar sound and you had to develop a technique to avoid it glitching which isn’t easy. You could say it was really innovative at the time, and we were initially criticized for using it... then everybody started playing them! I suppose we were searching for a new direction, trying to break new ground - it's the kind of thing that makes guitar life interesting though and a challenge! Nowadays, on Nostradamus I used a Godin LGXT for the synth guitar work. Things have moved on quite a bit.
Almost hidden is my almost-obligatory nu-metal tool, an Ibanez RG Series seven-string. Though I’ve already recorded with it, I’ve got to admit that I don’t use it much, it’s got that great de-tuned sound but it’s not exactly where I'm at as a guitar player, I do however feel It’s always important to experiment and keep up with new sounds and ideas that may lead to new pastures and that trigger fresh ideas.
I've always had a Les Paul of one sort or another and actually did the solo to "Beyond the realms of Death' on a Les Paul. I did have a black one but snapped the neck when I got carried away one night in Sheffield city hall and pulled my cabinets down on my guitars. I did have it repaired and think I may have given it to my brother. This one is a replica of a 1960 model, made in '95. I tried a few out and this one in fact actually sounded better than a couple of old originals. Just plug it in and instantly you've got that unmistakable Les Paul sound.
It's not often that I go shopping with a particular model in mind, but I fancied a Fender Telecaster. Either a '69 or a '70. I wanted one because I think if you play a chord on a Telecaster, it's got a response and musical quality that few guitars have. Again it gets used quite a lot in the studio for parts of songs or quieter intros but I've never used it on stage and don't think I ever will!
I really love my 24-fret, graphite bodied Fernandes Sustainer. It uses a magnetic process - just flick a switch and you get endless harmonic sustain. Soaked in echo, it sounds wonderful for certain types of lead work. I've never used this guitar live either but it records really well.
The Explorer was bought simply because it's a great guitar, and I modified it a little and have used it recently on stage. As for the 335, I got that while preparing for "Baptism Of Fire", my first solo album, back in 1997. I love the look of it and I thought it was going to end up hanging on the wall. They are renowned for feeding back but when I tried it out it sung like a bird so I used it straight away on the solo in "Enter the Storm" and it never went on the wall after all!. I love it... it's up there with the Stratocaster as a guitar I really enjoy playing it and looking at. Some 335s squeal and are a bit noisy, but this one is so smooth and doesn't feed back at all.
I originally bought a plastic looking translucent red six-string Legend electric to make into a lamp for the wall. But when I got back, I tried it and discovered it's got a very raw, unrefined sound, so it didn't become a lamp after all. It illustrates a certain way of thinking - if a guitar has a use and sounds good in its own way, who cares how much it costs or who made it.
These are what I call my working guitars, one is the Hamer Phantom (albeit slightly more sleeker than the stock model), while the other is the Hamer GT which is my own design, cream with black edging on the body. Jol Dantzig has always been patient and extremely helpful working with me on these guitars. It took a long time to get them just right with many subtle features. When you're on the road you often have guitars go down or they get broken, so you need to have reliable, identical backup guitars, in some ways the design of the Hamers is very simple - a slim SG-style neck, twin humbuckers, a locking trem, no tone controls (less wiring and I get what I want tone-wise from the pickups and graphics in my rack). The thing that's most unique on the GT is the extended lower body shape. It fits inside my right thigh so that when I'm running around on stage, it's immediately in the right angle and position for lead solos especially any stretch playing like the solo in Painkiller. I am currently talking with Jol on a possible new signature model along the lines of the guitar I designed, made for me by John Diggins. Jol has now left Hamer and formed a company of his own. If we go ahead the guitar will be an updated version of the GT however we will have to wait and see what happens.
My mirror-plated Hamer Phantoms are my favourite. They’re fantastic guitars, so easy to play. I've recorded many solos with this guitar including "Baptizm of Fire", "Friendly Fire" and many more for Priest as well. I’ve got one with just a bridge pickup and another, which is a direct replica of this, plus a few more. As I said it’s a little more pointed than the stock model with a narrower neck and the wiring's simplified: no tone control, just the one volume control, a toggle switch and the EMGs - that’s all I need.
I’ve also got a few semi-acoustic and electro-acoustic guitars, including a black ESP Eclipse semi-acoustic, an Ovation, a Yamaha 12 string, an Alvarez (used on "the Fire burns below" solo) and a spruce-topped Taylor 814CE electro-acoustic which featured on "Searching" a track on my second solo album "Edge of the World". It’s a great sounding guitar Talking of 12-strings, I really like my cherry red Epiphone Riviera. It’s just wonderful, plug this guitar in and it almost writes songs by itself. Just playing simple chords gives a sound that’s so inspiring.
So, here are some of my guitars I use, and a little bit about them, but if I had to choose my absolute favourite guitar, it would be my ‘61 Strat. If it hadn't been for that - who knows? I might have had to get a proper job!!